Did you ever wonder what's going on under the hood of your car? By that, I mean what's really going on? Now you can with a new and ingenious gadget. The Baltimore Sun recently carried a story about the CarChip.
About the size of a pack of old-fashioned razor blades, it plugs into an under-dash receptacle that's familiar to mechanics, but virtually unknown to the public.
Once plugged in, the CarChip monitors the engine's internal sensors and stores the data on a memory chip every five seconds or so. When you remove the CarChip and hook it up to your computer, its software transfers the data and displays a full report.
This picture of the CarChip, next to a set of car keys, gives you an idea of its size.
So what about the prices and specifications?
The basic CarChip ($139) stores up to 75 hours of data and generates tables and graphs that show trip duration, minute-by-minute speed, average speed, maximum speed and incidents of heavy acceleration and braking.
For $179, the more sophisticated CarChipE/X stores 300 hours of data. In addition to speed, it collects readings generated by five additional engine sensors.
The author found somewhat difficult to locate the On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) receptacle to insert the CarChip. But it worked perfectly, although two things could be improved: the software which comes with the gizmo, and the connection with a computer, a serial port connector that requires its own power supply.
Now, you'll know what to tell your mechanic during your next visit.
In "When drivers ed isn't enough", the U.S. News & World Report also talked about the CarChip and expressed concerns about privacy.
Those under surveillance undoubtedly will squeal about privacy. But tracking devices may soon become a rule of the road. Another monitoring device, called DriveCam, already is mounted to the windshield behind the rearview mirror of more than 6,000 trucks, ambulances, and other fleet vehicles. The palm-size camera continuously records the scene out the front windshield; DriveCam claims that its cameras help reduce crashes by 35 percent to 70 percent. And there may be a consumer version in a few years. Maybe we'd be better off staying home.
Source: Michael J. Himowitz, The Baltimore Sun, via The Seattle Times, July 12, 2003
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